When it comes to transferring an image, you’ve got a number of great methods at your disposal. If you are new to art and need some guidelines for painting or a simple reference point, then image transfer can be quite useful. It’s also great simply for moving an image to a more desirable medium. Whatever your reasons, today we’re going to discuss 5 methods that can serve you in moving an image from point a to point b.
Is image transfer considered ‘cheating’?
Some artists turn their noses up at image transfer, stating that it’s ‘cheating’ to give yourself a starting framework. The fact is, art is about creation and however you get there is really up to you. Do you like Picasso? Cubism is simply deconstructing images and reassembling them to achieve the desired effect.
Transferring an image certainly isn’t cheating and anyways, who says you are using it to paint the same thing? So, whichever of the techniques that you decide to use below, we hope you will use them with confidence. Art is art and there is nothing wrong with a framework.
Old-fashioned ‘compare and draw’
The traditional means of transferring an image is simply to clip the original image up next to your larger canvas, so that you may look and reproduce it at a larger scale. If you do this, then you’ll want to make sure that the marks that you make are delicate so that you can’t see them through the paint that follows. Try using a 2b-rated graphite pencil and you should be able to produce delicate enough marks to use without fear of showing through your paint.
Next, for transferring an image to canvaswe have another traditional standard and that is, of course, tracing! It is an easy way to transfer an image to a canvas and if you’ve got a fairly steady hand then you should be able to create a darned fine copy. To use the tracing method, follow the steps below:
- Make a photocopy of the image that you want to transfer which is as close to the size you are looking for.
- With a 6b graphite pencil, completely shade in the back of the image.
- Put the image on the new medium where you want to transfer it, placing it graphite-side down. If it’s a stretches canvas, be sure to put something underneath the canvas to support it for the actual tracing.
- With a 2H pencil, start tracing the image that you wish to transfer. Use firm pressure on your pencil to make sure that you get a good transfer.
A projector is another way to do some tracing. You have a lot of options for this, such as DLP or LED varieties, and you can often get a used projector for a fraction of the price through your local pawn shop. Attach it to your laptop or desktop and voilla, the image you need will be thrown on the canvas and ready for you to trace (or even to simply use as-is for painting!).
The graph method for transferring an image to canvas takes a little approximation or mental-math but once you’ve got it down, it’s a great way to ensure that you can draw an image with the right proportions. In order to use this method, you’ll need a ruler and a light pencil like a 2b graphite. Once
“You can draw an image with the right proportions.”
you’ve got those, then follow these steps:
- Using your ruler, determine the size of the squares that you’ll need to divide your original picture up evenly in a grid.
- Lightly draw in your grid on the original picture
- Do the same square-measurement for your new canvas and lightly trace in the squares.
- Start drawing the image from your original onto the new canvas, taking advantage of the light grid to help you to create an accurate rendition of the original
- Erase those thin lines from your grid and your template is now ready to use!
Gel transfer is a fun way to transfer photos or other images onto a canvas while giving it a distinctly pleasing ‘ragged’ look. This can be a lot of fun, as there are many ways that you can take advantage of the look. You can whip up a treasure map for a kids birthday, for instance. You can ‘antique’ family photos. Draw blueprints that depict parts of the actual building along with it’s ‘skeleton’. The only limit is your creativity so the uses are almost endless. Be sure to play with this one! To use the gel transfer method, you are going to need the following:
- 1 tub of regular gloss gel
- 1 foam brush
- 1 spray bottle filled with water
- 1 printed copy of your desired image
- High Gloss Mod Podge
So that the steps are easy to follow, we’ll list them with their own headings below and try to make everything as comprehensive as possible.
Step 1 – Initial application of the image that you wish to transfer
In order to get the desired results, you’re first going to need to apply a coating of gel to your canvas. Not a whole lot, but not too little…. Go for a medium-level application.
Next, press your image into the gel, centering it on the canvas, and be sure to smooth-out any air bubbles that result from this. You can use something like a credit card or even push the edge of a small hardcover book across is so that the image is perfectly flat and affixed well to the surface.
Give it about 12 hours to properly dry and then we are ready for the next step.
Step 2 – Time for a little water
Grab your spray bottle and you want to begin spraying the image on your canvas so that you’ve got a small amount of water coating it completely. Be methodical about it so that you get 100% coverage and then we are ready for the really fun part of this process.
Step 3 – Unwrapping your ‘present’
Carefully begin pulling off the paper. It’s going to be a bit layered at this point, so this is going to be a slow process. Get your first layer off and don’t worry about the ‘distressed’ look that you are seeing, as this is what you are supposed to be seeing and what makes this form of transfer so interesting.
Step 4 – Rinse and repeat
This part is a bit time-consuming and we should note that how much of the paper that you remove is going to be up to you. There’s a specific look that you probably have in mind after peeling off that first layer so that is what you want to go for.
Use your spray bottle to give your image another thin coat of water and begin the peeling process again. You’ll probably have to do this a number of times in order to get the look that you are going for, but that’s okay. Just be patient and don’t rush the process or you might pull off more of the original image than you intend to.
The image transfer using this method is not going to look like a photocopy but it gives you the basics, to either enjoy as-is or to accentuate with a little clever painting of your own. You’ll end up with some spots on the image where the paper peeled a little funny and this can produce some aesthetically
“Keep spraying and peeling until you get a look that you just can’t part with”
pleasing results that you can’t really get any other way. So, keep spraying and peeling until you get a look that you just can’t part with and then you can let it dry for painting or we can seal it up to keep it the way that it is.
After you’ve painted on the original image or if you simply want to keep the image that you have now, a little sealing is going to be required. You can use that glossy Mod Podge by applying a thin layer to your dried and finished canvas and that gives it a nice, shiny look while protecting it. If you have a preferred sealant that you would rather use then that is okay as well, just be sure to protect your finished work.
After that, frame it up and put it somewhere that you can enjoy it!
Some final words
So, there you have it! 5 means of transferring an image to canvas so that you may use it for learning or for interesting projects that currently just exist in that artistic mind of yours. Whether you go with a traditional method or something more modern, you should be able to get that image reproduced so that you can make your idea into a reality.
Just be patient, as some of these methods take a little practice. Until next time, we wish you the very best of luck on your project!